English Literature The Medieval Period (Old English and Middle English)
England before the English • When the Roman legions arrived, they found the land inhabited by “Britons.” • Today, the Britons are known as the Celts • Stonehenge • no written language • The Britons were absorbed into Roman society • Latin is spoken • Romans withdraw as the Empire crumbles, leaving the Britons behind
England before the English • group of pagan people from Northern Europe begin a series of invasions • Anglo-Saxons (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) • bring Germanic languages • still have their language • Wednesday…day of Woden, father of the gods • Thursday…day of Thor, god of war Woden--father of the gods
By 600, Anglo-Saxons conquer the Britons • language becomes more Germanic • still retains some Latin • The Anglo-Saxons’ two urgings--war and wandering become part of the oral tradition • Beowulf is an example of an Anglo-Saxon hero tale Beowulf battles Grendel’s mother
By 700, Christian missionaries arrive to convert the pagans • Latin (the language of the Church) returns • King Alfred • the Britons become organized • first true king of the Britons • period of prosperity King Alfred brings an age of prosperity
In 1066, the Normans (French speaking people from Normandy), led by William the Conqueror attack and defeat the Britains (a blend of the Britons and Anglo-Saxons) at the Battle of Hastings • the 3rd language is introduced--French • French culture and French literature arrives
Welcome to England and the English…an island of peoples, languages, and divisions... Latin -- church, schools French -- court, castle English -- commoners The White Tower in London… part of William’s legacy Chartres Cathedral
The 3 Estates in the Middle Ages • The idea of estates, or orders, was encouraged during the Age, but this ordering was breaking down. • Clergy • Latin chiefly spoken, those who pray, purpose was to save everyone’s soul • Nobles • French chiefly spoken, those who fight, purposewas to protect—allow for all to work in peace—and provide justice • Commoners • English spoken, those who work, purpose was to feed and clothe all above them
feudalism • The economic system of much of the Middle Ages (800-1100) • Commoners (peasants) lived on a feudal manor. The lord of the manor gave his vassals (the peasants) land to farm. • In return, the vassals received protection from roving bandits. Yet they were taxed and had to surrender a portion of their crops to the lord. • it was better to be a lord than a vassal! • Feudalism is important as it created ties of obedience and fostered a sense of loyalty between the vassals and their lord. A tenant (vassal) renews his oath of fealty to his lord
Chivalry • A product of feudalism, chivalry was an idealized system of manners and morals • Restricted to nobility • The Medieval knight was bound to the chivalric code to be loyal to… • God • his lord • his lady • Chivalric ideals include... • benevolence • brotherly love • politeness • Sir Gawain is an example
The Church • Provided guidance through well known precepts.. • Seven Deadly Sins • Pride • Greed • Wrath • Envy • Gluttony • Sloth • Lust
With the Crusades comes The Black Death spreads along trade routes kills much of the population the plague outbreaks occur through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance • Paradoxically, the Plague provides for continued growth in cities • Afterwards, hundreds of new jobs available • Many debts “died off” with creditors • also contributed to society’s culture
Enough already! I thought this was an English class!
Languages • Latin was the language of the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated Europe • The Church was the only source of education • Thus, Latin was a common language for Medieval writings.
A notable amount of medieval literature is anonymous. Medieval authors often tended to re-tell and embellish stories they heard or read rather than invent new stories.
Geoffrey Chaucerc. 1343-1400 • Considered the father of English poetry • Wrote in the vernacular • Served as a soldier, government servant, and member of Parliament • Introduced iambic pentameter • First writer buried in Westminster Abbey Learn more about Chaucer. Go to. . . http://www.unc.edu/depts/chaucer/index.html
The Canterbury Tales: Snapshot of an Age • It frames a story of characters on a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury. • The characters are a concise portrait of an entire nation. • The pilgrimage is a quest narrative that moves from images of spring and awakening to penance, death, and eternal life. • The characters tell stories that reflect “everyman” in the universal pilgrimage of life.
Writings Catholic clerics were the intellectual center of society in the Middle Ages, and it is their literature that was produced in the greatest quantity.
Characteristics of Medieval Literature • Heroism • from both Germanic and Christian traditions, sometimes mingled • Beowulf • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight • Presentations of idealized behavior • literature as moral lesson • loyalty to king • chivalry • use of kennings(especially in Beowulf) • A figurative, usually compound expression used in place of a name or noun. Example, storm of swords is a kenning for battle.
Use of Allegory • An allegory is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than the literal. • Much of medieval literature relied on allegory to convey the morals the author had in mind while writing--representations of abstract qualities, events, and institutions are thick in much of the literature of this time.
The Ideal of Courtly Love • This relationship was modeled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege lord. • The knight serves his courtly lady with the same obedience and loyalty which he owes to his liege lord. • She is in complete control; he owes her obedience and submission
The knight's love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor.
“Courtly love" was not between husband and wife because it was an idealized sort of relationship that could not exist within the context of "real life" medieval marriages. • In the middle ages, marriages amongst the nobility were typically based on practical and dynastic concerns rather than on love.
“Courtly love" provided a model of behavior for a class of unmarried young men who might otherwise have threatened social stability. • Knights were typically younger brothers without land of their own (hence unable to support a wife). • They became members of the household of the feudal lords whom they served.
The lady is typically older, married, and of higher social status than the knight because she was modeled on the wife of the feudal lord, who might naturally become the focus of the young, unmarried knights' desire.
The literary model of courtly love may have been invented to provide young men with a model for appropriate behavior. It taught them to sublimate their desires and to channel their energy into socially useful behavior (love service rather than wandering around the countryside, stealing or raping women.
The "symptoms" of love were described as as if it were a sickness. The "lovesick" knight’s typical symptoms: sighing, turning pale, turning red, fever, inability to sleep, eat or drink.
The Quest • In addition to the theme of Courtly Love, the Quest was highly important: • the code of conduct observed by a knight errant who is wandering in search of deeds of chivalry. This knight is bound by a code of behavior - a set of conventional principles and expectations
A quest is a hero’s journey towards a goal. The objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and the overcoming of many obstacles. • The hero must obtain something, or someone, by the quest and with this object return home.
Usually, an inner and outer problem for the character is set. • The hero is introduced; audience identifies with them • The hero lacks something, has a tragic flaw, or a deep wound • The hero is “called” to action or to do something because of duty or out of chivalry • The “call” often produces disorientation and discomfort for the hero • The “call” is often in the form of a dire warning or threat
Excuses are used to avoid the call • This hesitation illustrates the formidability of the challenge ahead • Resistance creates change and strength, allowing the hero to grow • A physical or metaphorical crossing is made • The crossing is an irrevocable leap of faith, from which there’s no turning back
The hero faces his greatest fear • The hero “dies,” so he can be reborn • The hero gains new perception • This new perception may create a moment of clarity • The moment may be of great self-realization for the hero • It may also be an epiphany for the hero’s companions
The Hero Is often of divine descent endowed with great strength and ability" or "a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities"
Characteristics of Medieval Literature • Romance • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight • A narrative in prose or verse that tells of the adventures and heroic exploits of chivalric heroes • exploits of knights • often a supernatural element involved • Christian message • concern with salvation and the world to come • no interest in social change • until the late 14th century • Chaucer signals new thinking, up-ending social order
Sir Gawain and the Green KnightHave the rules of love changed? • The Art of Courtly Love ( twelfth century document) listed several rules of love: • No one can be bound by double love. • The easy attainment of love makes it of little value. Difficulty of attainment makes it prized • A new love puts flight to an old one. • If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives
Has our basic needs/motivations changed? • Desire to survive • Look good • Attract a mate • Attempts to uphold morality
Scenario One: • You are at a party, having a great time, when a frightening guest crashes it. He/she demands that someone fight him/her—if he/she dares!
Scenario Two: • There’s a kid at school who is an unbearable braggart. He/she is the best at everything!! How would you teach him/her a lesson?
Scenario Three: • Someone you are very attracted to uses his/her sex appeal to talk you into doing something you know is wrong. .
Scenario Four: • You have to admit you have done something wrong in front of a large group of your peers
The Green Knight • He challenges King Arthur’s knights to a New Year’s game. • The Green Knight wants to exchange “one blow for another.” • The stranger will stand for the first blow if the other knight will agree to have his turn in a year and a day.
Sir Gawain • Sir Gawain accepts the Green Knight’s challenge. • He honors his word and searches for the knight’s Green Chapel. • Gawain finds a lord and his lady on his quest who offer him shelter on Christmas day. • The lord has the lady tempt Sir Gawain three times on the rules of courtly love. • Gawain resists--all but one advance. • The Green Knight reveals himself to be the lord and spares Gawain for his honesty.